Are Viruses, Worms, and Malware The Same Thing?

Shigraf Aijaz
Cybersecurity Writer and Journalist  

Viruses, worms, and malware have somewhat become a buzzword, causally tossed around in conversations related to cybersecurity. However, since these terms are often associated with significant security issues and data breaches, it is crucial to gain better insight into what each of these terms means.

 Are Viruses, Worms, and Malware The Same Thing?

In common terms, malware is any malicious software or program cybercriminals use to access the target’s system, get through the access controls, launch Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks, and steal valuable data. Malware is not a new concept; it’s been successfully causing harm to users’ devices for over a decade and compromising their data. However, with time and making good use of technological advancement, cybercriminals have evolved malware into various types and forms. They continue to wreak havoc for users despite the prevalent use of security tools like VPNs and antimalware software.

Viruses and worms are a type of malware that belongs to the early phase of malware.  A computer virus is a type of malware that, once activated, will continue to replicate itself from one folder to the other and insert its code. Viruses spread quickly and infect the victim’s system to steal personal and financial information, lock the system, or attack them with spam.

Similarly, a worm is like a virus replicating itself with a system. However, unlike a virus, it doesn’t spread to other programs. Once the worms get installed on your system, they work silently in the background and infect the device without the users’ consent.

Viruses and worms cause significant damage; the only difference is their ability to replicate, with worms replicating independently, while viruses need a host. So, viruses, worms, and malware are all the same things but in different shapes and how they target. Regardless of the type of malware, it’s always the best idea to detect and take action against them.

Are Malware Attacks on the Rise?

The cyber actors continue to target large enterprises with malware to get maximum data and revenue. Cybercriminals used malware to target businesses and email malware attacks increased by 600%. Here are some of the stats that further proves the spike in malware attacks:

  • The Google Transparency Report reveals that 2.195 million websites made their way into the safe browsing list category as of January 2021. Google removed 27,000 sites because they contained malware, while over 2.1 were phishing sites.

  • Kaspersky Labs reported that Iran experienced the most malware attacks in the second quarter of 2021.

  • In 2020, 61% of organizational employees were targeted by malware spreading from one employee to another. This figure rises to 74% in 2021 and proves that employees are the weakest link in spreading malware.

There are more incidents and stats other than these that clear that malware attacks are causing havoc for the organizations, and they need to consider adopting some effective strategies against them.

How to Tell If Your Device Is Infected?

All the malicious programs are under the belt of malware, including viruses, worms, ransomware, and trojans. However, malware is difficult to detect because cyber attackers continually adopt new tactics and strategies to hide their presence and achieve their target. But there are always some common signs that can alert you about malware on your system. These signs include:

  • Frequent pop-ups and redirection to unknown websites.

  • Computer performance starts getting slower.

  • The device battery starts to heat up excessively.

  • Infection warning with solicitations to purchase software to fix them.

  • Apps and programs are running without your consent.

  • Frequent system crashing.

  • Unusual ransom demands.

If you sense any of these signs, it indicates that your device is infected with malware.

How to Defend Against Viruses, Worms, and Malware?

Since 2015, there’s been a decrease in malware attacks for the first time. SonicWall’s reports reveal that the company detected 9.9 million malware attacks in 2019 compared to 10.5 million in 2018. This is possible because people now follow preventive measures like:

  • Using antivirus and anti-malware security tools. These tools are the first defense against malware, viruses, and worms. That scan and remove malicious files from your device.

  • Using a firewall, as it provides an extra layer of protection against malware and blocks unauthorized access from a computer network.

  • If a popup appears on your screen and lures you into clicking it, never do it. Close any such screen messages and, if possible, avoid using sites that show too many unwanted messages and interrupt your browsing experience.

  • Beware of phishing emails. If you receive an email asking for personal details like login details or financial credentials, refrain from providing such information.

  • Make sure to download apps from official Play Store instead of third-party resources.

  • Beware of email phishing scams and avoid opening an email from an unknown or suspicious-looking source.

  • Keep your system updated and install the updates as soon as they are available.

  • Do not use suspicious-looking websites like the ones that offer free screensavers.

  •  Organizations need to ensure that all employees remain aware of this threat. Weekly or monthly training and seminar sessions should be held that educate about malware and how to combat it.

  • You must check daily news and remain updated on the latest trends in malware.

These are some of the most reliable methods that can help you remain secure against such foreign invasions.

Final Thoughts

Malware comes in different forms and can be classified as viruses, worms, trojans, spyware, and ransomware. Whatever form it takes, its purpose always remains the same, and that’s it always wants to infect your devices with malicious software and steal valuable data. Different forms of malware have caused significant damage to individuals’ privacy and business. 

Every year organizations lose billions of dollars because of files infected with malware and ransomware. With the increasing cyber risks and weak endpoint security, preventing the effect of malware is challenging, but it’s not impossible. Antivirus software or anti-malware tools is one of the best ways to deal with malware. Besides this, you can also follow the tips mentioned above and boost your online and device security.

Shigraf Aijaz

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